Rough Green Snake: Care, Temperament and Breeding

A stunning pet to sit back and enjoy.

Rough Green Snakes (Opheodrys aestivus) are semi-arboreal snakes that eat insects! In the wild, these snakes enjoy every aspect of life and live happily between the trees, ground, and water.

Rough Green Snakes are very common and have healthy population numbers in North America. They make wonderful pets for someone who wants to sit back and enjoy watching this diurnal snake.

They do not do too well with handling and prefer being left in their enclosure. However, they very rarely bite if at all!

Common Name:Rough Green Snake
Scientific Name:Opheodrys aestivus
Natural Habitat:Forest edge that is close to a pond
Adult Size:2 to 3 feet
Lifespan:15+ years
Diet:Soft-bodied insects
Experience Level:Intermediate
Enclosure Size:30 gallons for an adult

Reptile Overview

Rough Green Snakes are good eaters so you do not need to worry about them starving themselves if you provide a suitable environment. They are super easy to come by and are relatively cheap.

This is great news for a reptile owner but not so great for the natural population.

They are listed as Least Concern by IUCN. However, they are caught by the hundreds to be sold in the pet trade every year and this will have an impact on their numbers in the long run.

These stunning snakes make great pets because they are relatively long-lived, beautiful to look at, and interesting to watch. They are also diurnal reptiles which means you get to watch them when they are the most active.

Appearance

The average adult gets between two and three feet in length. The female will generally be longer and heavier than the male.

They are quite thin snakes with a head that is only slightly larger than the body. Their bodies taper after the vent to a very thin and fragile tail. This gives them a vine-like look that helps them blend into their natural vegetation.

They are a brilliant green color along the top of the body, this stunning green meets an equally brilliant yellow coloring along their sides and belly.

There are some variations in color where the belly is more white than yellow.

Some snakes can also have a couple of light blue scales dotted over their heads and down their bodies. This mainly occurs when they are juveniles and they grow out of it as adults.

Rough green snake head macro

Their heads are relatively small. They have very large eyes on either side of their heads right where the green meets the white or yellow of their chin.

Their scaled are keeled and have a rough look which gives them their name of Rough Green Snake.

Their bodies are perfectly evolved to blend into the trees and escape their natural predators.

Temperament

Rough Green Snakes are timid snakes and do better when not handled frequently.

They generally do not bite at all. Their defense mechanism is to release a very foul-smelling musk from their vent to ward off attackers.

Green rough snake climbing on tree leaves

They can be a bit flighty so you must make sure that the enclosure latches or locks properly otherwise they will escape.

They are lovely snakes to watch in their enclosure because they are quite active during the day.

Rough Green Snakes do well with others! This means that you can house three to four snakes in the same enclosure. However, for every snake you add, add 10 gallons to the enclosure size.

Behavior

Rough Green Snakes are one of the few diurnal snakes!

This means that they are active during the day which allows you to observe their behavior without disrupting their natural photocycle.

They are also active hunters! Their natural prey items are soft-bodied insects.

When you present them with a wax worm or cricket, they will move their body in a random swaying motion to mimic a tree branch or vine waving in the wind.

Opheodrys aestivus

They are part of the colubrid family. However, they are not constrictors!

When they spot a prey item they will hunt and grab it, swallowing it whole while it is still alive!

Lifespan

It is mostly a myth that they are short-lived reptiles averaging at 7 years old.

Most Rough Green Snakes are wild-caught and so have lived some or most of their lives before being kept as pets. When snakes come from the wild, they carry parasites and other bacteria that can shorten their lives.

If your Rough Green Snake is kept in a healthy environment and you get it as a young juvenile then your snake can live for upwards of 15 years! Some specimens that have been kept are as old as 22!

The key to having a long-lived Rough Green Snake is to keep it in a healthy environment with minimal stressors and provide it with a good diet.

Enclosure

Rough Green Snakes are semi-arboreal and enjoy a good swim regularly. This needs to be taken into account when considering the enclosure setup.

An adult’s enclosure should not be less than three-quarters of the snake’s length. It should measure at least half the snake’s length high and wide. Rough Green Snakes are active snakes and need the space to move around freely.

Exo Terra Glass Terrarium Kit

Exo Terra Glass Terrarium Kit

A glass or plastic enclosure is perfect. We do not recommend wood as their humidity requirements are quite high and constantly damp wood can breed mold and bacteria that will cause your snake harm.

This snake needs good ventilation so a screen top or small computer fans will help prevent your snake from suffering from respiratory problems that come from stagnant air.

The enclosure’s floor should not be too cluttered as your Rough Green Snake will like to move around quickly. However, the vertical aspect will need to provide good coverage.

Provide your Rough Green Snake with fake or natural foliage along the vertical aspect that spans the length of the enclosure so that your snake can travel from one side to the other without coming down to the floor.

If you are using fake foliage, we suggest using silk plants as there are easier to keep clean and sterile. If you are using a natural bio-enclosure then make sure that the plants are not toxic to your snake.

Use branches or sticks from the garden or other natural structures to provide enrichment for your snake. Make sure you fully sanitize these before introducing them to the enclosure.

To do this you must boil them in clean water and then let them air dry or bake them at low heat until they are completely dry and you are sure all pesticides, mold, insects, and parasites are killed off.

Make sure that any branches are securely anchored and will not fall with the weight of your snake. Apart from causing harm, this can stress your snake enough that it will no longer feel safe in the environment.

You must do a full cleanout of the enclosure every one to two months. A full sanitization of the enclosure keeps your snake healthy and prevents mite infestations and other health problems from occurring.

Substrate

Rough Green Snakes can be maintained on a variety of substrates depending on the type of enclosure you have.

Medium-sized smooth pebbles do well to drain excess moisture and provide the snake with a smooth floor to move over. This type of substrate can be reused and is fairly easy to clean when you do a full enclosure sanitization.

Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

However, sphagnum moss, orchid bark, and cypress mulch are also good alternatives. They will help maintain humidity and provide a different kind of floor to move over.

Galápagos Terrarium Sphagnum Moss

Galápagos Terrarium Sphagnum Moss

We would suggest using a combination. As Rough Green Snakes are naturally found near ponds having some sections of the enclosure’s floor as pebbles and some as mulch will provide healthy enrichment.

Never use pine or cedar shavings! They are toxic to your snake and can cause skin irritation as well as cause respiratory problems.

You should spot clean your substrate of the fecal matter once a day to keep the environment healthy.

If you use pebbles as substrate then they can be washed and reused when you do a full enclosure cleanout.

If you use mulch then new mulch needs to be provided when you do the full cleanout.

If you have a bio-enclosure set up for your Rough Green Snake, then you must keep a careful eye on the drainage system that you have going to make sure that it does not become blocked up or develop harmful mold.

Temperature

The temperature needs to be carefully monitored at all times. We suggest installing a thermometer on the cool and warm side of the enclosure to carefully measure the temperature gradient.

Zoo Med Labs Digital Hygrometer and Thermometer

Zoo Med Labs Digital Hygrometer and Thermometer

Rough Green Snakes are semi-arboreal so the gradient needs to accommodate for the vertical aspect too.

We suggest using a heating pad or tape that runs under a third of the tank and up one wall.

VIVOSUN Reptile Heating Pad with Digital Thermostat

VIVOSUN Reptile Heating Pad with Digital Thermostat

Your Rough Green Snake will need a basking spot on the warmest side of the enclosure. You could also use a ceramic heat emitter or a heat bulb. Whichever you use, you must put it in a protective dome to avoid your snake being burned.

Fluker's Ceramic Heat Emitter

Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter

Your heating mechanisms should be controlled by a quality thermostat to avoid any errors.

Do your setup before you bring your Rough Green Snake home. Make sure the temperature gradient is correct and stable. If you fiddle around with the temperature gradient while your snake is in the enclosure, the temperature changes can prove fatal.

  • Cool Side: 78°F – 80°F
  • Warm Side: 88°F
  • Basking Area: No higher than 90°F

There should be at least three hideaways in the enclosure. One on the cool end, one in the middle, and one near the basking spot. It is important that your Rough Green Snake has enough cover to travel between these hides comfortably without too much exposure.

You can use hollowed-out logs, hollowed-out coconuts, caves, or an upturned plastic container. These hideaways must be large enough for the snake to fit in but small enough that it is a snug fit.

Try to use different kinds of hideaways to provide some natural variation and enrichment for your Rough Green Snake.

Lighting

Rough Green Snakes are diurnal and benefit from sunlight in their natural habitat. This means that they need full-spectrum lighting in their enclosures. For this reason we are using Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 UVB compact lamp.

Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 UVB Mini Compact Fluorescent

Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 UVB

Your Rough Green Snake needs a natural 12/12 light/dark photocycle. We suggest using a timer like Zilla Digital Timer to control the lighting in the enclosure.

It is a good idea to place your snake’s enclosure in a room that receives natural sunlight but is not bothered by artificial light too late in the evenings. Never put the enclosure in direct sunlight as this will raise the temperature of the enclosure to fatal levels.

You can add LED or other lighting to the enclosure during the day portion of the photocycle to brighten the enclosure up. However, make sure that the extra lights do not interfere with the temperature gradient.

Zoo Med Reptisun Led Terrarium Hood

Zoo Med Reptisun Led Terrarium Hood

Humidity

The Rough Green Snake needs a fairly humid environment as it comes from a naturally moist environment.

A humidity level of 55% – 65% is acceptable. You can achieve this through daily misting or using automatic fogger from REPTI ZOO.

REPTI ZOO Reptile Mister

REPTI ZOO Reptile Mister

Use the higher side of the range while your Rough Green Snake is in shed. This will aid in the shedding process and make sure that the old skin does not get stuck and cause infections.

Install a quality hygrometer in the enclosure to keep a careful eye on the humidity levels. You can check humidity with the same thermometer and hygrometer from Zoo Med Labs. If the enclosure is too humid then your Rough Green Snake will develop respiratory problems.

A too-humid enclosure will also foster unhealthy mold and bacteria growth.

If the enclosure is not humid enough then your Rough Green Snake will have problems shedding. 

Diet

Water is very important to your Rough Green Snake. Make sure they have a water bowl that is large enough for them to get into to soak or have a little swim.

The water bowl should be placed on the cooler side of the enclosure to avoid rapid evaporation which will increase the humidity levels.

Your Rough Green Snake’s water bowl needs to be nonporous, heavybottomed and refreshed daily.

  • If the water bowl is porous it will leak water into the substrate and increase the humidity levels.
  • If the water bowl is too light then it can tip over and raise the humidity levels fatally.
  • If the water is not refreshed daily then your Rough Green Snake can ingest fecal matter and become incredibly sick.

You should scrub out the water dish once a week to prevent mold and fungi from building up as these can be toxic to your Rough Green Snake.

Food:

Rough Green Snakes are fascinating feeders because they are mainly insectivores! Which means that they eat insects!

We recommend three to seven prey items two or three times a week depending on how well your Rough Green Snake feeds and how old it is. Use our sizing formula to help you determine how big the prey item should be.

Girth of prey item = Largest point of girth of snake, excluding the head

You should feed your Rough Green Snake a variety of soft-bodied insects such as crickets, moths, caterpillars, crane flies, and wax worms.

You should start by feeding them with tongs or tweezers. Once they get used to this you can progress to hand-feeding which is absolutely cool!

unlumm Feeding Tongs 15" 2 Pcs

unlumm Feeding Tongs 15″ 2 Pcs

We recommend that you pre-kill any insects that have rough legs (such as crickets) or mouthparts big enough to bite your Rough Green Snake. Live wax worms and caterpillars can be safely fed to your Rough Green Snake provided they are not toxic.

A variety of prey items is important for your snake to receive a well-balanced diet.

As a very occasional treat, you can put one or two small feeder fish of appropriate size in the water bowl and let your adult snake go fishing.

Once the fish have been consumed clean out and replace the water immediately.

Handling

As we have said before, this is not the snake for frequent handling for two main reasons.

  1. Rough Green Snakes are delicate and you can easily bruise or damage the snake through rough handing.
  2. This snake evolved to hide away in the branches and be unseen. If you are holding your snake and displaying it, it is not receiving the appropriate amount of coverage which can lead to stress.
Rough green snake handling

However, if you need to handle it to clean the enclosure or transfer it to a new one then we recommend:

  • Gently let the snake come onto your hand instead of pulling it off its perch.
  • Always let it coil around your wrist or fingers instead of firmly grasping it.
  • Hold it close to your body to provide it with a sense of coverage.

Never handle your snake for 24 hours prior to, during, or 24 hours after feeding. This can cause your snake to become incredibly stressed and regurgitate its food.

Potential Health Issues

External Parasites:

  • Mites are always a problem with snakes, especially if you have more than one in the same enclosure.
  • Mites are small parasites that burrow under your snake’s scales to get at the skin. They appear as small black or red dots on the snake. This needs to be treated immediately as they carry their own parasites!
  • They are an indication of poor enclosure hygiene.

Internal Parasites:

  • Most Rough Green Snakes are wild-caught which means they will come to you with a high internal parasite load. You should treat them immediately you receive them.
  • Consult a vet as to the proper medications to use.

Scale and Mouth Rot:

  • This is caused by a bacterial infection of your snake’s skin.
  • This needs to be dealt with as soon as you see it.
  • You can identify it when puss oozes from any part of the snake’s skin or its mouth.
  • Your snake’s mouth will also be a very bright red.

Respiratory Infections:

  • These are caused by too high humidity levels.
  • You will notice your snake breathing through its mouth and it will have mucus coming from its nostrils.
  • You can listen to your snake and hear a bubbling or gurgling sound when it breathes.

Fungal Infection:

  • These are very serious and need to be addressed immediately.
  • The fungal infections can attack the eyes and scales and lead to blindness.

Breeding

Rough Green snakes are very common so there is a question of if it is ethical to breed them or not. We say it is because the more captive-bred specimens there are on the market the less natural population will be harmed.

Males reach maturity at 21 months and females between 21 and 33 months. This means that you can start breeding your snakes within their third year of life.

These snakes can be housed together so you do not need to worry about introducing them to various females.

In fact, Rough Green Snakes are scientifically known as polygynandrous which means promiscuous!

The males will mate with one female and as soon as he is done move on to find another.

A period of brumation is necessary to achieve maximum breeding success. During the winter months, you should drop the overall temperature by five to 10 degrees overall and reduce their photocycle from 12/12 light/dark to 14/10 light/dark.

Reducing light and temperature must happen slowly over a number of weeks to avoid causing your snakes stress.

Your snakes may or may not reject feed during this time. Continue to offer it once a week.

At the end of winter, you can slowly bring the temperature and light back to normal levels. They should feed almost immediately the temperature is back to normal. Return to their regular schedules.

The males will rub themselves along the females and mate with them and move on to another.

Once the female is gravid (pregnant) she will lay her clutch in five to 12 weeks.

Place a box lined with moist sphagnum moss far away from the water bowl. The females will lay their eggs in one nest together.

You can remove the eggs once they have been laid as the female has no further interest in them.

Conclusion

Rough Green Snakes make beautiful display pets. They are interesting to watch because they are diurnal and insectivores!

They live fairly long if they are provided with the correct care and thrive as a colony. This means that you can have a family of snakes living in the same enclosure provided that it is big enough.

We wish you every success in owning your Rough Green Snake and ‘herp’ you have a wonderful time!

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